In Scotland and beyond, a clootie well is a sacred spot, where strips of cloth are tied to trees above a water source. Each piece of cloth represents a wish for healing. A similarly comforting tradition is the clootie dumpling. This time, the cloth is used in the cooking process: Cooks place a traditional sweet pudding in a cloth sack before boiling it.
Ingredients vary, but often include breadcrumbs, suet, spices, and dried fruit. These days, a pillowcase often serves as the sack. After slipping the dough inside, cooks tie the bag at the top, then boil it for several hours. The result is a dense, spiced cake with a thick skin. Since its recipe calls for boiling a traditional pudding in a bag, the clootie dumpling has been called the sweet version Scotland’s other famed dish: haggis, which replaces the sweet cake and cloth sack with savory offal and an animal’s stomach.
The clootie dumpling is a homey treat that’s usually eaten in the winter months, for holidays such as Christmas, Hogmanay, and Burns Night. It sometimes might contain fortune-telling trinkets for eaters to find, such as a coin for wealth or a thimble for spinsterhood. But these days, the usual embellishments are simply cream or custard.
Need to Know
While typically a wintertime treat, plenty of shops sell clootie dumplings around Scotland all year, sometimes by the slice.
Visit Scotland with Atlas Obscura Trips
Poetry and Music in the Scottish Lowlands
See the lowlands through the eyes of one of Scotland’s most celebrated poets, exploring old port towns and ancient fortresses, sipping single malt whisky, and wandering the breathtaking landscapes that inspired the beloved bard.
Where to Try It
Clootie McToot59 Main Street, Abernethy, PH2 9JB, Scotland
This shop offers a variety of clootie dumplings, including vegan varieties.